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Religion, Poverty and the Indices of Happiness

Politicians across the globe have been toying for a few years now with the idea of using ‘happiness indices’ to better gauge the well being of their citizens. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index leads the pack, having surveyed its citizens in 2010. China, perturbed by the increasing alienation its billion+ residents have begun to act out, is contemplating a similar index. The upstart Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tries to provide some statistical credibility to this emerging measure of our discontent. Shigehiro Oishi and Ed Diener, in their paper titled Residents of Poor Nations Have a Greater Sense of Meaning in Life Than Residents of Wealthy Nations, posit that residents of poorer nations placed a greater value on the meaning of life than those in wealthier countries. They write: “Although life satisfaction was substantially higher in wealthy nations than in poor nations, meaning in life was higher in poor nations than in wealthy nations.” The researchers attribute this seeming contradiction to the “mediating role of religiosity”. They believe that the meaning in life is higher in poorer countries such as Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Niger, “even under objectively dire living conditions” because people in those countries are more religious.
Forbes India

Kejriwal gives written assurance to resolve Sikh issues
Finally, Delhi’s ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP) has taken notice of hunger strike by France based human right organization Aurore-Dawn president Iqbal Singh Bhatti and have assured to deliver justice with respect to his demands in a sympathetic and time bound manner. AAP’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in a letter written to Bhatti informed that his government was sympathetic to the issues raised by him and would take necessary steps to ensure full justice.
The Times of India

Sikhs should boycott Congress, says Sukhbir Badal
Just a day after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi admitted that some party leaders could be involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal Tuesday called upon the Sikh community to boycott the Congress. Condemning Gandhi for “not bothering to tender an apology” for the killing of hundreds of Sikhs in the 1984 riots, Badal said his “self-admission of the barbaric crimes of Congressmen in anti-Sikh genocide” should be suo moto taken notice of by the courts to take action against Congress leaders.
Business Standard

An atheist’s love letter to religion
“The Book of Mormon” manages to satirize, offend, evoke laughter, make powerful statements on religion and be heartwarming and irreverent simultaneously. The show brings in an average of $19.5 million every month, making it the most successful musical in four decades. The show also recently swept through last year’s Tony awards, winning virtually every major award including: Best Musical, Best Actress and Outstanding Music.
The Miami Student

David Brooks: Religion is truly personal
There is a strong vein of hostility against orthodox religious believers in the United States today, especially among the young. When secular or mostly secular people are asked by researchers to give their impression of the devoutly faithful, whether Jewish, Christian or other, the words that come up commonly include “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old-fashioned” and “out of touch.”
Times Union

Sisi calls for “modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam”
The latest Muslim Martin Luther, taking up the tattered crown from the cynical, deceptive Tariq Ramadan, is Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has called for a reformation within Islam. Such a reformation is certainly urgently needed, and even in calling for it, Sisi has gone much farther than the Muslim Brotherhood scion Ramadan ever did. Sisi, however, is a general, not a member of the Egyptian ulama; his words are unlikely to spark a mass movement for general reformation of the elements of Islam that give impetus to violence and supremacism. And the existence of those elements, and people who believe in them, is likely to menace Sisi for simply making this call — as others have been menaced for calling for reform in Islam in the past. Just last year, the Moroccan cleric Ahmed Assid condemned violence in Islam’s name, and was promptly declared an apostate and an enemy of Allah by other clerics, and threatened with death. The Iraqi Shi’ite scholar Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji called for reason in Islamic discourse and jurisprudence, and was immediately arrested.
Jihad Watch

Einstein And Buddha: Convergence Of Science And Eastern Philosophy
Albert Einstein is possibly the greatest scientist mankind has ever produced. His general theory of relatively created a revolutionary change on how scientists have viewed the world. He discovered that time and space is always related to the observer. His famous equation E=MC2 revealed that matter and energy are interchangeable forms of same substance. Einstein being a genius did not confine his interest only on science. The views he has expressed on Religion, philosophy and politics indicates that he was a great thinker who tried to bridge the gap between science and philosophy or religion. Buddha gave us a great teaching which would lead to tap the maximum potential of the mind which will eventually lead to the understanding of everything happening around us and finally to liberate from the cycle of Sansara (Cycle of Birth and death). The difference between Einstein and Buddha is that while former was keen in finding answers to the phenomenon of outside world, Buddha used his own powers of observation within his mind (introspection), intellect and reasoning, grounded in reality, to guide him to his enlightenment. Both Buddha and Einstein did their research on a scientific basis. Buddha advised his followers NOT to accept what he was teaching them at face value or to take his beliefs “on faith.” Rather, he counseled them to test his theories for themselves, and if they didn’t prove true, then reject them. (Kalama Sutra) Buddha found what he was looking for. Einstein after all his discoveries has to admit mankind does not have the wisdom to understand the all the mysteries of the nature. The purpose of this article is to examine the relevancy of some of Einstein’s statement to Buddhist teachings and also to present Einstein’s view about the religion.
Sri Lanka Guardian

Millennials Invent New Religion: No Hell, No Priests, No Punishment
“Isn’t it blasphemy to invent a religion?” my student asked with concern. Every semester, in the comparative religion class I teach at a local community college, I ask my students to divide into groups and create a religion from whole cloth. “All religions were invented at some point,” I offered, reminding him that while Jesus may have assigned Peter to be the rock upon which the church would be built, it was up to everyone else to determine the details.
Religion Dispatches

A balanced society: Religion and nationalism go hand in hand, say scholars
A liberal and plural version of nationalism – one that accommodates both language and religious beliefs – is the need of the hour. “Nationalism can be both good and bad. It can unify or divide, oppose or liberate. In short, it has two extremes,” said Dr Salim Cevik, a lecturer at Ankara’s Ipek University. He was speaking at a seminar, titled ‘Change and Continuity: Religion and National Identity’, organised by the Szabist Social Sciences Department at its campus on Wednesday.
The Express Tribune

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Hindus on the run, temples destroyed as BNP-Jamaat unleash targetted violence

Activists of main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its key-ally fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami attacked Hindu households in western Jessore and northwestern Dinajpur, local media reports said. The threat of life has forced hundreds of minority Hindus to leave home in panic as post-poll terror strikes have gained momentum in several districts of Bangladesh even as the 48-hour hartal has entered second day on Tuesday.
Niti Central

Seven arrested for attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Hasina vows action
Two Jamaat activists were arrested yesterday while five Bangladesh Nationalist Party supporters were arrested today for attacks on Hindus in Jessore and Dinajpur. A senior police office in Dinajpur said they were arrested after victims named those responsible for the attacks.
Zee News

Uphold 10-point solution, council of five religions tells Malaysian Govt
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism president Sardar Jagir Singh said the only way to resolve the issue was to honour the 10-point solution. “All places of worship should be off-limits to the interference of other (non-related) religions. “There are places to hold demonstrations, it must never be done at a place of worship,” he said yesterday.
The Star Online

Doctors embark on annual journey of faith and spirituality to Shirdi
Every year doctors and support staff from Lakshdeep Hospital in Vashi and Sai Snehdeep Hospital in Koparkhairane undertake a pilgrimage on foot to Shirdi, as a token of thanksgiving. The journey lasts four days, with around 12 hours of brisk walking everyday, and nights being spent in temples, ashrams, villages and sometimes even in open spaces.
The Times of India

Will Faith At Work Be A Good Thing When Your Job Is On The Line?
Picture this:  The economy has given the company you work at a pretty hard hit. Sales are down, competition is fierce, vendors and customers are all struggling and your job is on the line. You have 3 kids to feed, a mortgage, car payment and are still paying off the college debt you accumulated to get this amazing career started. Your boss is doing all they can to keep you employed.
A Real Change

16 Scientifically-Backed Ways To Boost Your Happiness Almost Instantly
An infographic.
Huffington Post

A battle for the soul of Islam
The mess is entirely of Muslims’ own making. It is the “Great Satan” within who is wreaking the damage. Islam is at war with itself, which is raging, simultaneously, at several levels — between moderates and extremists; between Shias and Sunnis; and between pro-West (Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies) and anti-West (Iran, Lebanon, Syria) Muslim powers.
The Hindu

We Must Teach about Religion in High Schools
Despite being such a religiously diverse nation, America has levels of religious literacy that are abysmal. In a 2010 survey, the Pew Forum asked more than 3,000 Americans some simple questions about the world’s religions. Most respondents could answer only half of them correctly. In a 2005 study conducted for the Bible Literacy Project, only 10 percent of American teenagers could even name the five world religions covered in the Hendersonville world religions unit. This does not bode well. Religious literacy is necessary to the health of a democratic, pluralistic society. Religion is not a discrete and ahistorical phenomenon; instead, it is embedded in the very fabric of human history and culture. Without some understanding the world’s religious traditions, students are ill equipped to understand literature, history, art, or the current political landscape.
Religion and Politics

What is the truth about Islam: A religion of Peace or War?
Throughout the world it is commonly asserted that Islam is a religion of violence, misogyny, and a host of other negative attributes. Such attitudes have been held for centuries, but never entered the mainstream until the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. However, the idea that every single Muslim in the entire world promotes or admires violence is false. The idea that most Muslims are in favor of violence or hatred is equally false, and not proven by any measure or statistic ever conducted.
Washington Times

Nineteenth Joint Postgraduate Conference on Religion and Theology
This year I am helping in the organization of the University of Bristol’s postgraduate conference on religion and theology. Please help spread the word and if you are in the UK or can make it here in March, please submit an abstract.
Patheos

Religion and youth
Father Michael Psaromatis, parish priest at Saint Andrew Noarlunga, in South Australia tells Neos Kosmos that one third of his parish attending services is made up of youths and young families. He says his church is in an area that is predominately resided by young families forming their own community around the church, and this trend is opposed to what he sees occurring in Greek Orthodox churches situated in the CBD of Adelaide.
Neoskosmos.com

Books discuss link between religion, violence from varied viewpoints
Like it or not, religion has always taken a central place in the world’s violence. While William Abraham’s “Shaking Hands with the Devil” and John Allen’s “The Global War on Christians” discuss very different issues, the authors share the same aim of reducing the stereotyping about religion and the religious that seems a constant in our secularized world.
Catholic San Francisco

 

Abode of Lord Shiva has 1,388 sacred sites of minority community: Survey

Banaras, known as cultural capital of India and sacred city of Hindus, records about one-fourth of its total population (1.65 million in 2010) as Muslims. The importance of Muslims in Banaras is noticed by existence of their 1,388 sacred sites. There are over 3,300 shrines and sacred sites of Hindus. A professor of cultural geography and heritage studies, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Rana BP Singh conducted a detailed study and survey of Muslim sacred sites. The study titled ‘Muslim shrines and multi-religious visitations in Hindus’ city of Banaras: Co-existential Scenario’ gives a detailed account of such sites.
The Times of India

Jat couple who fought their own to save Muslims
Torched houses and barren streets stare at you as you enter Fugana – one of the nine villages worst hit by the September 8 communal clashes that shook Western Uttar Pradesh and displaced more than 50,000 Muslims. Step a little deeper into the village, you will spot a rare sight – a Muslim woman going about her daily chores. Noorjehan, 50, did not abandon her house during riots, though she knew she was the only one in the community to stay back.
The Tribune

Govt plans PF-like corpus for Muslim education
In a unique initiative modelled after a Haj fund in Malaysia, the Ministry of Minority Affairs is looking at a Provident Fund-like corpus raised through contributions from the community, for investing in higher education infrastructure for Muslims. It has asked SBI Capital Markets — an investment bank and the project advisor — to conduct a feasibility study and submit a report.
The Indian Express

Hindus urge Scotland’s Muirfield golf course to allow women members
Hindus have asked Scotland’s Muirfield, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, to open membership to women also. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that women membership was long overdue and it would bring an end to 269-years old gender discrimination. Men only membership policy of Muirfield was highly inappropriate, immoral and archaic, Zed added.
The Jet Newspaper

Regular Event gets Religious Twist
Until mid-December a board put up at the entrance of Azhagankulam, a nondescript village with an equal sprinkling of Muslim and Hindu population in Ramanathapuram district, served as a “warning” to troublemakers. The board read: “Warning: Campaigning using microphones and pasting posters are prohibited. Violators will be severely punished.”
The New Indian Express

Top 10 Forgotten Ancient Religions
The ancient world was home to a huge variety of religions and belief systems. Most have faded away, their temples and statues vanished or half-sunk in the desert sand, their gods barely remembered. The religions on this list were all founded before most of the main religions of today (Christianity, Hinduism, Islam) and most of them have completely died out—although some are being revived by new practitioners.
Humans Are Free

A Brief Note on Christians and Homosexuality
Especially with a certain television show’s antics, there have been recent flare-ups again in the culture wars, with some atheists (and unfortunately, some Christians) saying that Jesus wants His followers to use violence against gay people. Let’s put aside the question of whether Jesus views homosexuality as a sin, not because this is irrelevant to the broader culture war, but because it’s irrelevant to the very specific issue I am discussing.
Free Advice

Spiritual journalism – stirrings of a new awakening in media
Spiritual journalism is not about vague thoughts. It seeks to connect with people, as much as journalism itself. With existence in today’s world becoming increasingly complex, a large number of people, especially the youth, are seeking nirvana or salvation via television or print media. Thus, one finds news organisations devoting increased attention and resources on coverage of spiritual and ethical concerns. A critical change is in the way the field is covered and how much space and airtime are allotted to it. The number of religion reporters — particularly in television, which has largely ignored the topic — is growing as it becomes clear that religion and spirituality are topics that permeate daily life.
Exchange4Media

Top religion stories of 2013
After the jump, the top religion news stories of 2013, based on a  poll of the Religion Newswriters Association.  Strangely downplayed or omitted:  the persecution of Christians in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; the new assaults on religious liberty; the new prominence of aggressive atheism; the rise of the “nones.”
Patheos

Does religion affect economic growth and happiness? Evidence from Ramadan
A fascinating paper by Filipe R. Campante and David H. Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard. They look at economics around Ramadan month celebrated by Muslims. It seems growth comes down during the month but people are happier:
Mostly Economics

Islam to become Ireland’s second religion by 2043
Islam will become Ireland’s second religion within the next 30 years because of dramatic population growth and immigration.
Independent

God is the Highest Perfect Term of Our Being
We are to exceed our human stature and become divine; but if we are to do this, we must first get God; for the human ego is the lower imperfect term of our being, God is the higher perfect term. He is the possessor of our supernature and without His permission there can be no effectual rising. The finite cannot become infinite unless it perceives its own secret infinity and is drawn by it or towards it; nor can the symbol-being, unless it glimpses, loves and pursues the Real-being in itself, overcome by its own strength the limits of its apparent nature. It is a particular becoming & is fixed in the nature of the symbol that it has become; only the touch of that which is all becomings and exceeds all becomings, can liberate it from the bondage to its own limited Nature. God is That which is the All and which exceeds the All. It is therefore only the knowledge, love and possession of God that can make us free. He who is transcendent, can alone enable us to transcend ourselves; He who is universal can alone enlarge us from our limited particular existence.
The New Indian Express

 

 

 

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